Friday, October 02, 2009

Context doesn't matter when you own the book

My Eastern Orthodox debate partner David made an astonishing statement the other day that I would like to share.

The original post was on a different topic, but that's OK. I don't ordinarily mind derailing a comment box, but this one got pretty far afield, and I liked the post and its feeble responses from a couple of atheists, so I'll be diverting the EO-related discussion to this and another future post.

Anyway, what led up to the statement was that David had claimed that EOdoxy offers a better answer to the materialist atheist than my presuppositional approach and argumentum ad absurdum offered in the post. (He still hasn't let me know exactly what that answer is.) I challenged that, naturally, especially given the fact that he is a biblical errantist and accepts the theory of evolution as usually stated by the modern neo-Darwinists (or so he has implied). He pointed in due course to a webpage detailing some experiences EO martyrs have suffered at the hands of Soviet communists. I read some of them, including this one:
The overthrow of the Tsar, "he who restraineth" (2Thes.2:7) opened the way for the servants of Antichrist to exterminate the spiritual powers of Russia, and first of all -- the clergy.
David defended this:
Do you disagree that the Czar restrained the Atheist Communists? Or that Atheist Communists are the servants of the AntiChrist? 1&2 John are very clear about who the AntiChrist is... And Atheist Communists fit the bill.
My reply set up my favorite statement from him so far:
Nice leap there. Context much?
2 Thess 2:1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

It's pretty reckless Left-Behind-type eisegesis to apply those contemporary events to 2 Thess 2's prediction. I didn't think Tim LaHaye had a lot of pull in the EO community.
Then the kicker from David:
Their use of this particular phrase from Scripture is not somehow "official Orthodox doctrine." The Scripture is a living document and the possession of the Church; they chose to use a phrase from our Book.
Now, I presume that the Bible is a "living document" to David b/c, as all organisms have evolved from a common ancestor, the Bible itself is evolving as well, hopefully in the direction of perfection (depending on the mutations it suffers and the natural pressures it experiences that will govern whether it survives or not), but it's not there yet.

No response to the obviously bad exegesis performed by the author of the blurb who was no doubt expressing EO popular piety unto one of her martyrs. All this preceding talk about the unity of the Church, but when an EOdox expresses a view that David apparently doesn't feel like defending, and all of a sudden, the site is a private individual expressing a private opinion, not Orthodox doctrine. Whom am I to believe is a more reliable purveyor of Orthodox doctrine - David the layman 20-something-year-old errantist or the website of the ROCOR parish All Saints of North America?

Even more pointedly, David is evidently vicariously sidestepping an EOdox's responsibility to properly interpret Scripture. Why? Because it's "our Book" - we'll thank you not to lecture us on how badly we used it, since it belongs to US, not you! If we want to take 2 Thessalonians ludicrously out of context and ape Hal Lindsey, we're gonna do it and we don't need no guff from youse guys.
Given this mentality, is it really any surprise that it's nearly impossible to find any actual biblical support for most EO distinctive dogmas?


David said...

Allow me to clarify my comments with a couple of analogies.

Protestants view the Bible as a dead "thing" to be studied and dissected. Basically, the Protestant uses the Bible the way he would use a Dictionary.

For Orthodox, on the other hand, the Bible is more akin to a Family Album.

John said...

This coming from a blog purporting to support the exegesis of the Reformers who called the Pope THE antichrist? Calvin called the papacy the "two horns" of the beast of Rev 13. Luther called the papacy the beast of Dan 7.

So lets see how consistent you are. Are you going to condemn the Reformers for "Left Behind" exegesis, or are you going to weasel your way out?

Given this mentality, is it really any surprise that it's nearly impossible to find any actual biblical support for most Reformed distinctive dogmas?

Rhology said...


So it's OK to quote your family album badly out of context?


Who taught you that the two wrongs make a right fallacy was a good argument?

John said...

"Who taught you that the two wrongs make a right fallacy was a good argument?"

You seem to think that a broad application of eschatological prophesies is indicative of a "mentality" about which we can make generalisations about theological systems. i.e. I just demonstrated you shot off your own foot.

If you want to admit this blog article is extremely boring, and pointless, then we can go on from there.